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The high point of my friend Paul's life was his two-week tour of Spain, which was through one of those companies that exists solely to milk college students dry. It cost him a cool $1300, him and about twenty other kids from his third-level class. I spent the two weeks before the trip laughing at how he was throwing away all that money, and I told him I was going to buy a steerage class ticket to Europe and just follow him around and piss him off by not spending any money, which was, frankly, a great idea.

The thing is that there isn't a steerage class anymore -- I don't know why -- and every boat that goes from America to Europe is either 1) a cargo freighter, 2) an aircraft carrier, or 3) a cruise ship. One was right out. Number two was better, but joining the Air Force just to prove that Paul was a dirty fool who didn't know how to conserve his precious dinero didn't seem quite worthwhile either, and cruise ships cost a hell of a lot of money.

So instead I flew standby. I spent a whole stupid day in the airport and then I came back, wiser, at six AM the next morning to make sure I got a ticket. When I told Paul about this, I said that it only took an hour, but really I could've just gone to work for those two days and made enough to buy the dumb ticket in the first place. When I got to Lisbon on my bike (Madrid flights were booked solid), it took me almost a week to get to where I needed to be, because my passport was all fucked up and I didn't speak Portuguese and I'd sort of flown to the wrong country, in geographic desperation.

Also, it's about three hundred miles between the two capitals and I only covered sixty a day, once I allowed time for getting lost and trying to negotiate accomodations in a foreign language. I didn't even have one of those stupid tourist's phrasebooks. The important thing, though, is that I was right and it wasn't really worth paying thirteen hundred valuable, American dollars to avoid taking in Portuguese culture and the joys of sleeping in an airport and biking across most of Iberia, because these things are really more important than anything else you could experience. But they're better when you can shower.

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